LIMA — If the meteorologist was right, it’s sunny and calm today and will be the rest of this week.
But after days of heavy rains and isolated thunderstorms, Mother Nature saved her most powerful punch for last. A swiftly moving storm blew through the region Wednesday afternoon toppling power lines and trees, damaging buildings and causing power outages.
The storm hit hardest east and south of Lima, with numerous homes and barns severely damaged in eastern Allen County and western Hardin County, and reports of a collapsed building at a lumber yard and uprooted trees in Cridersville. Police officials reported wind gusts of 80 mph and more.
The Allen County Emergency Management Agency will ask the National Weather Service to visit the area to determine what — a tornado, straight-line winds, or both — caused the damage. Agency Director Russ Decker said damage in eastern Allen County looked as if multiple kinds of weather blew through, and while people reported seeing funnels in the sky, no one reported any touching down.
During the storm, scanner traffic included crews looking for residents along state Route 309. After the storm, Allen County Sheriff’s Lt. Darrel Pugin said officers were checking on residents, because homes there suffered damage and had downed, live power lines on them.
“We just wanted to make sure everyone was OK,” Pugin said. “Everyone is fine.”
In Mercer County, officials reported a tree fell on a house trailer and a partial roof collapse at a business, along with dozens of downed trees, utility lines and power poles.
Shortly after the storm, Midwest Electric reported more than 3,700 outages, nearly 40 percent of the electric co-op’s customers. Within two hours of the storm passing, however, the company reported several of the substations were back up and running.
AEP Ohio also reported thousands of customers in Allen, Putnam, Auglaize and Hancock county were without power Wednesday afternoon.
Before Wednesday afternoon’s storm, people were already dealing with results of the heavy rains in recent days.
“We’re selling lots of sump pumps, shop vacs, squeegees, cleaning supplies, piping,” Lima Bargain Center General Manager Jeff Coleman said. “We also answer lots of questions here, too. We’ve had plenty of inventory and we’re getting more today, but hopefully the rain is stopping.”
City of Lima utility crews have been assisting property owners with flooded basements, but most of the folks dealing with water have had problems before, Assistant Utilities Director Mike Caprella said.
“The system is just full. You can’t put 10 gallons in a 5 gallon bucket,” Caprella said. “Those first few rains were good. Our reservoirs filled up, and the ground just soaked it up. Now, the ground is saturated and it has nowhere to go. Even I’ve had enough.”
When residents call, the city responds to make sure the flooding isn’t because of a system blockage or failure, Caprella said. People who face regular basement flooding can work with the city through its water in basement program, which includes raising the lateral to a home and making some other plumbing changes. The fix has alleviated many flooding issues in the city.
Ferguson Enterprises branch manager Thomas Hudson was selling sump pumps like hotcakes Wednesday and anticipated he would be again today. The plumbing wholesale company supplies contractors and homeowners.
“A lot of our business really does depend on customer demand,” Hudson said. “Our business has picked up. I expect we’ll be busy for a while.”
Electricity returning in region following storm